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How can you get a perfect brine?

post #1 of 13
Thread Starter 

Hi

 

I am trying brine some chicken and would like the solution to go into all of the chickens cells.  I do not need the chicken to taste extremely salty, rather the salt should be distributed throughout the whole chicken.

 

I belive the correct way to do this is to use small pieces of meat, refrigerate for a long time and cook slowly.  Yesterday I cut a 1kg chicken up into 8 pieces, added to 1.5L water, added 28grams of sea salt and left to refrigerate for 16 hours. I cooked it this morning on a low heat.

 

Upon eating the chicken after cooking in a soup I noticed some(not all) inside parts looked purple/reddish/brownish whearas most outer parts looked thick and white(i'm guessing due to brining).  Do you think this suggest the brine did not penetrate to the inside chicken or does it show the chicken isn't cooked long enough?

 

Any ideas what I can do to ensure the brine completely salts all parts of the chicken?  I know I am using less salt, I want to reach all parts of the chicken not neccessarily make it very salty, I have tried with a higher concentration of salt however the same problem appeared where the inside didn't seem brined or was brown/purple coloured.

 

Thanks

 

 

 

 

post #2 of 13
Quote:

Originally Posted by Chlorinated View Post

 

I belive the correct way to do this is to use small pieces of meat, refrigerate for a long time and cook slowly.  Yesterday I cut a 1kg chicken up into 8 pieces, added to 1.5L water, added 28grams of sea salt and left to refrigerate for 16 hours. I cooked it this morning on a low heat.



I seldom brine, but most of what you said in this paragraph is a contradiction of what I believe about it.  When I think of brine I think of large, lean cuts of meat, and cooked whole. The point of the brine to me is to get flavor and seasonings to permeate deep into the large cut of meat. When I think of small pieces of meat that are cooked in small pieces I think about marinades and seasonings. When you have smaller cuts, you can get seasoning and flavorings over so much greater surface area because you've got those smaller cuts.

 

Also I tend to think large cuts, slow cooking; small cuts, quick cooking.  Even when making say, chicken fajitas or chicken soup, if i want slow cooked meat I will slow cook whole and cut into the smaller pieces once cooked and properly rested.  Even if i'm cooking say, a boneless chicken breast, which should be cooked relatively quickly, I will cook then slice.  This prevents overcooking and dryness, which would be a damn shame if you had dry meat that you've taken the time to brine for the purpose of preventing dryness, right?

post #3 of 13

Having brined poultry for many years, it is my opinion that there is little, if any, effect on the salt content of the brined poultry, whether whole or in pieces. For me, brining simply increases the moisture content and may affect the flavor to a degree.

 

Unless the salt concentration is higher in the brine than it is in the poultry, it is difficult to understand why salt would move from the brine into the meat. A raw, whole chicken contains a little over 1,000 mg of sodium in its natural state. That's the equivalent of slightly over 0.05% or 50 grams/liter.

 

Your brine, 28 grams per 1.5 liters, is 0.01867%, about 1/3 the actual natural concentration in a chicken.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #4 of 13

I think it's worth mentioning that a good amount of poultry purchased in this country is already in a brine. It's packaging will say something along the lines of "contains up to x% salt solution." to brine that will be either too much or have no effect at all. 

post #5 of 13
Thread Starter 

My goal is to simply have salt distributed throughout/to all parts of the chicken.  I tried with a higher concentration(56 grams) and the chicken did taste very salty.  The problem was that I don't think it distributed to the inner parts of the chicken.

 

 

Quote:

Unless the salt concentration is higher in the brine than it is in the poultry, it is difficult to understand why salt would move from the brine into the meat. A raw, whole chicken contains a little over 1,000 mg of sodium in its natural state. That's the equivalent of slightly over 0.05% or 50 grams/liter.

 

Your brine, 28 grams per 1.5 liters, is 0.01867%, about 1/3 the actual natural concentration in a chicken.

 

 

It could be my bad math and if I didn't understand your calculation, but if there is 1 gram(1000 mg) in the natural chicken and 28 grams(28000mg) in my water, then it should move into the chicken.

 

My concern isn't that it wasn't absorbing, rather how to ensure the solution travels to all parts of the chicken as I am noticing it isn't going to some parts based on purple/brownish texture of some parts.  I am trying to find a way to ensure salt is absorbed in all parts of the chicken.  16 hours for a 1 kg brinless small cut chicken didn't seem to do it.

post #6 of 13

You are correct, I misplaced a decimal point, 0.05% is not 50 grams/liter but .5 grams/liter, my apologies. So your solution is 56 times stronger.

 

For a number of reasons, I do not believe you are headed in the correct direction to accomplish your goal.

 

In my mind, you are misapplying and misunderstanding the chemistry, science, and techniques of cooking.

 

Therefore, I will no longer participate in this discussion.

Chef,
Specialties: MasterCook/RecipeFox; Culinary logistics; Personal Chef; Small restaurant owner; Caterer
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Chef,
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post #7 of 13
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

For a number of reasons, I do not believe you are headed in the correct direction to accomplish your goal.

 

In my mind, you are misapplying and misunderstanding the chemistry, science, and techniques of cooking.

 

Therefore, I will no longer participate in this discussion.


Surely the whole point of me asking was to understand the application, chemistry, science and techniques of cooking!

 

Brining is meant to add flavour and juicness to meat.  Having brined I noticed that it was only doing this to the outer parts of my chicken and not so well the inner.  I simply asked why this may be the case and how to correct it.  I'd say this is a simple and valid question appropriate for a forum like this.

 

Of course you are not bound to come or answer here, so do as you will.

 

post #8 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chlorinated View Post


Surely the whole point of me asking was to understand the application, chemistry, science and techniques of cooking!

 

Brining is meant to add flavour and juicness to meat.  Having brined I noticed that it was only doing this to the outer parts of my chicken and not so well the inner.  I simply asked why this may be the case and how to correct it.  I'd say this is a simple and valid question appropriate for a forum like this.

 

Of course you are not bound to come or answer here, so do as you will.

 


 

While I have never done any math to do my brine, the process we have here is osmosis. Which means that sodium tends to regulate itself between a cell, surrounding cells, and liquid they are suspended in.  The idea here is that as you add cell to salted liquid, sodium will permeate the cells. For this to be possible, the sodium will also carry the liquid it's dissolved in and any additional flavor added.  Even if your chicken has a higher sodium concentration than the brine, because it is either packed in a solution or frozen in solution, osmosis is a process that will continually work both ways to maintain balance of sodium between the meat and liquid.

 

Now to be more specific to your question, how can you be sure?  People have been doing it for years because it's a simple process that works. I use 1 c in 1 gallon of water, dump ice into it to cool it down after i've added heat to properly dissolve the salt, and then dilute as needed in stock to cover. so it seems to me like you concentration to salt to liquid is much higher than mine. so not having enough salt would not be an issue.  I have never heard of brining meat chanting the color of it on the inside of white meat.  I once brinned a pork loin with some red wine in it.  What I ended up with was white meat with a ring of red on the OUTSIDE, so i stress again, I've never had brining change the color of the INSIDE of meat.  All I can think of is maybe you used heat to combine your salt and water and then plunged the chicken in hot water?  Also you have no mention of sugar, and I believe the basic brine in US measurement is 1gallon of water, 1 c of salt, 1/2 c brown sugar.  In metric that's ~3.5liters, 240 ml salt, and 120 ml sugar.  That would cut down on your fear of saltiness, i think. 

post #9 of 13
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:
All I can think of is maybe you used heat to combine your salt and water and then plunged the chicken in hot water?  Also you have no mention of sugar, and I believe the basic brine in US measurement is 1gallon of water, 1 c of salt, 1/2 c brown sugar.  In metric that's ~3.5liters, 240 ml salt, and 120 ml sugar.  That would cut down on your fear of saltiness, i think.

 

Actually all I did was get room temperature water, added the salt to it then mixed the salt with a spoon until it dissolved, I then added small chicken pieces and left it in the fridge on the highest temperature setting(which was still a bit cold) and took it out the next day.

 

I'm assuming the stirring of salt is sufficient to dissolve it.  Most of the recipes online didn't mention anything about using ice or worrying about temperature however maybe this was the reason the brine came out so crap? 

post #10 of 13

pcieluck got it wrong. Osmosis works the opposite as described. When a cell is in a saline solution, the cell strives to achieve a balanced concentration of salt inside and outside. The cell pumps water OUT of the cell to balance it's internal salt with the outside salt. The concentration rises because there is less water in the cell than before. The concentration in the liquid drops because it gains water.

 

Osmosis is a special case of diffusion and just about every cook I hear mention "osmosis" gets it wrong. If Osmosis worked as described above post, swimming in the ocean would kill us as our body sucked up salt. A shower or bath would make us sick as our cells pumped out our electrolytes.

 

Now, Brining tends to add in the neighborhood of 10% weight to a brined product. That extra weight is retained interstitial brine/cellwater from standard diffusion. It's not retained in the cells. One thing both koshering and brining do is that the salt denatures protein a bit. This creates a bit of a gel quality in the liquid helping hold the extra liquid within the interstitial structure.

 

With your soup situation, you will need to hold very constant temps as a standard simmer, or even a boil will be too hot for your desired results. Proteins contract as they cook. You can watch a steak or any cutlet or burger pull together when it hits a hot pan for example. As proteins contract, they start to squeeze and wring out the moisture from the meat. So you'll need to hit a lower temp and hold it or you'll squeeze out the added salt water you brined into your chicken.

 

You might be better served making the soup as you would normally, then gently poach some other brined chicken in the finished stock. That would double your meat cost though.

 

The brine you describe in your first post is quite weak (low concentration), even for overnight use. Where you're trying to hit a specific salinity throughout, you'll need a longer time and probably smaller pieces.

 

The purply/brown areas you note are most likely from bone adjacent parts of the dark meat. Lots of free proteins (myoglobin) in those colored sections which are probably blocking the solution from penetration as they denature and gel up preventing the brine from penetrating. This comes from the young age at which chickens have been bred to be at slaughterable size. The leg bones are still quite porous at this age giving the discoloration you're seeing.

 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #11 of 13
Thread Starter 

 

Quote:

You might be better served making the soup as you would normally, then gently poach some other brined chicken in the finished stock. That would double your meat cost though.

 

Did you mean cook a soup and then add the chicekn cooked in a different way e.g. grilled, oven?

 

Phatch, I take it your suggestions are use small pieces, use higher concentration brine and cook on a low temp? I do believe I did this the other day although it proved unsuccessful. 

I have a feeling that, in the first instance, my intial brine isn't being done properly.  I say this because the other day I brined a chicken and after cooking the soup on a low temp I found that, based on noticing the impact from brine, one leg piece came out very well, another came out ok and the deep meat in the breasts seemed to have not brined very well.  If not concentration I am guessing I have done something else wrong.  Intially I thought concentration and size of pieces and so I used small pieces and 86 grams of salt, although more salty it didn't seem penetration distance improved.

 

Now I am thinking temperature and maybe even that I have coupled the pieces loosely in a medium sized container.  I will test it tonight however I don't think these are the cause and it seems you guys do not think these are the reasons for my crap brining either.

post #12 of 13
Thread Starter 

hello guys

 

Having done some testing my brining has improved somewhat however I am still having some issues which i am hoping you will help me on.

 

I found that if you cut chicken into small pieces these do not brine well if at all.  On the other hand if you cut into 4 pices(legs and breasts)  or just brine the whole bird these brine much better.  Two questions from me:

 

1.  I notice after brining and cooking sometimes the bird inside is all white other times it is pinkish white.  Does the pinkish white mean poorer brining compared to white which means the brine was good?

2.  Even when I get the whole bird white and it tastes better and stronger sometimes I still notice raw/purple/red unbrined looking tissue present in outer parts of the chicken tissue rather then as you go closer to the bone. It seems the brining doesn't penetrate some specific areas 100% although the chicken generally brines well.  Do you experience this aswell and do you know what the cause for this maybe? I'm trying to get it 100% as these purple parts are giving me stomach problems.

3.  Suppose I do a high salt brine on a chicken and cook that chicken in a soup, if the soup water is unsalted or low salted, will the salt come out of the chicekn and distribute into the soup or will it stay in the chicken?

 

Many thanks

 

post #13 of 13
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chlorinated View Post



Quote:
Originally Posted by PeteMcCracken View Post

For a number of reasons, I do not believe you are headed in the correct direction to accomplish your goal.

 

In my mind, you are misapplying and misunderstanding the chemistry, science, and techniques of cooking.

 

Therefore, I will no longer participate in this discussion.


Surely the whole point of me asking was to understand the application, chemistry, science and techniques of cooking!

 

Brining is meant to add flavour and juicness to meat.  Having brined I noticed that it was only doing this to the outer parts of my chicken and not so well the inner.  I simply asked why this may be the case and how to correct it.  I'd say this is a simple and valid question appropriate for a forum like this.

 

Of course you are not bound to come or answer here, so do as you will.

 

One man's take

 

http://amazingribs.com/recipes/rubs_pastes_marinades_and_brines/zen_of_brines.html

 

Also if you want to perfect your brine technique measure your salt by weight not volume. Know what % brine you are making so you can adjust it accordingly the next time or reproduce your results. 

 

http://www.wedlinydomowe.com/sausage-making/curing/making-brine

 

Use the two yellow columns to find your salt to water ratio for a certain % brine.

You can't lay on the beach and drink rum all day unless you start in the morning

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You can't lay on the beach and drink rum all day unless you start in the morning

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